While Google's foray into direct sales of unlocked phones to the public was a dismal failure (despite the overall runaway success of Android across all carriers), Google just announced that developers purchased the last of their stock of Nexus One phones. As Google developer advocate Tim Bray wrote
A couple of weeks ago, we arranged that registered developers could buy an unlocked Nexus One via their publisher page in Android Market. We think it’s a good development platform and a nice phone. Apparently, you agree.
It makes sense that the Nexus One would find success as a developer platform where it never could on the open market. Why pay a premium for a rooted phone when most consumers don't know what it means for a phone to be rooted? A surprising number of people ask me what my "Got Root?" bumper sticker means and then their eyes glaze over when I explain the idea of *nix root privileges.
Developers, on the other hand, often have to go to great lengths to root phones from carriers who have a vested interest in ensuring that the phone stays fully under their control. Circumventing the hacks and having a fully supported phone that gets the latest updates directly from Google is obviously well worth a price premium if you make your living writing Android apps.
And now that Android has taken off across all carriers, Android developers will be falling from the sky in the same way that iOS developers came out of the woodwork when the iPhone became the smartphone platform to beat. A few questions remain, though. Many developers feel that platform fragmentation makes Android enough of a moving target that they'd rather invest their time in the tightly controlled, homogeneous iOS. How will Google and the carriers deal with that going forward as apps become a key differentiator for mobile operating systems? And perhaps more importantly, where will developers, now that the Nexus One is backordered with a worldwide AMOLED shortage, get unlocked, fully supported phones for testing and development work in Android? I guess they'll be doing it the old-fashioned way for a while. It's a bit more dashing to say your rooted your phone anyway.